Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: The Man Who United India
“By common endeavor we can raise the country to a new greatness, while a lack of unity will expose us to fresh calamities”, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Born on 31 October 1875 in Gujarat, Vallabhbhai Patel is called the architect of modern India who brought the princely states governed by local Rajas into the Dominion of India at the time of independence. And bringing approximately 500 princely states spread across the length and breadth of the country in one state is an unparalleled accomplishment in history.
The journey of Vallabhbhai Patel to become Sardar
Patel attended schools by living self-sufficiently and he also saved money to study law in England. As a reputed lawyer, Patel made Godhara his home and started practicing law but he was destined to become the de facto Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Indian army for integration of princely states and during the first Indo-Pak war in 1947.
Vallabhbhai Patel once mocked Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi after listening to his speech in 1971
“Gandhi would ask you if you know how to shift pebbles from wheat. And that is supposed to bring independence”, Patel
But a subsequent meeting with Gandhi in October 1971 changed his mind and he became a staunch follower of Gandhi. Afterwards, he started his political life with leading the peasant movements in Gujarat and became the first Home Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister of independent India.
Contribution of Patel in the Indian National Movement and beyond
He became the most influential leader of the Indian National Movement during Bardoli Satyagraha against the British rule. On winning the battle, he was accorded the title of Sardar. He played an active role in Quit India movement and unifying India after independence. Also, he is credited for creating the All India Services that he called “Steel Frame” to serve the country from the center. But his biggest achievement was the bloodless unification of princely states especially Hyderabad that was under the rule of Nizam and was contemplating freedom from India and Pakistan into the Dominion of India.
Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, described Patel’s efforts for unification as
“By far the most important achievement of the present government is the unification of the States into the Dominion of India. Had you failed in this, the results would have been disastrous”
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in modern India
The Iron Man of India breathed his last on 15 December 1950 at Birla House in Bombay. In 2014, Narendra Modi, the 14th Prime Minister of India, declared that birthday of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel will be celebrated as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas (National Unity Day). To commemorate the contribution Sardar Patel towards making of modern India he placed a Statue of Unity is placed on the bank of Narmada.
Statue of Unity
It is a 182 meters (597 feet) high statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Sandhu Bet, a river island in Vadodara Gujarat. It is the world’s tallest statue. The project covers 20,000 square miles and includes an artificial lake. PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the statue on 31st October 2018 with state honor.
About the project
The Gujarat government announced the project on 7 October 2010 and created a special purpose vehicle, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET) for the project. A movement to collect iron for statue was started and it was called “Statue of Unity Movement”. The movement further culminated into a Suraaj petition signed by over 20 million people. On 15 December 2013, the country took part in a marathon called Run For Unity to remember the efforts of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
The foundation stone for the statue was laid on 31 October 2013 on the 138 birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi laid the stone. The construction began in 31 October 2014 and completed in 56 months. A total of 75,000 cubic meter of concrete, 5,700 ton of steel, 18,500 ton reinforced material and 22,500 ton of bronze were used for making the tallest statue of the world.